Executive Director

Kirstin Chernawsky

Kirstin ChernawskyKirstin Chernawsky began her tenure at Erie Neighborhood House in 2013 as Senior Director of Development & Communications. During her three years in this role, she was responsible for setting the organization's strategic fundraising agenda to achieve and exceed revenue goals. Kirstin also represented the agency in external relations and media activities as well as by overseeing agency special events and communications.

The Erie House board of directors named her executive director in March 2016, making her just the ninth individual—and fourth woman—to serve in this capacity since the agency's incorporation in 1915. Kirstin has been a tireless advocate for the mission of Erie House and brings with her a strong background in nonprofit administration and strategic fundraising. She also has extensive experience working with the agency's strategic partners both across the city of Chicago and at the national level.

Prior to joining Erie House, Kirstin was Director of Development & External operations at BUILD, Inc., a youth organization aimed at violence prevention as well as college and career readiness in low-income Latino and African American communities in Chicago.

Commitment to Service

Kirstin applies her leadership expertise by volunteering with numerous organizations across the city of Chicago. She is Board Treasurer for the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR), Board Member for Susan G. Komen Chicago, Chicago Women in Philanthropy (CWIP),and the Metropolitan Chicago Breast Cancer Task Force. Kirstin was appointed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel to serve on the 2017-2019 Community Development Advisory Committee (CDAC), is a member of the Economic Club of Chicago and was a fellow in Crain’s Leadership Academy’s third cohort. In addition, she is a member of Leadership Greater Chicago, Class of 2019.

Education

Kirstin holds a Master of Science in Public Service Management and a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology, both from DePaul University, and earned a Certified Nonprofit Accounting professional designation. 

Senior Leadership

Senior Director of Programs and Quality Assurance

Melissa Flores

Melissa FloresMelissa Flores joined Erie Neighborhood House as the Senior Director of Programs and Quality Assurance in June 2018. Prior to joining the Erie House team, she worked as the Dean of Adult Education at Richard J. Daley College, one of the seven City Colleges of Chicago (CCC). Most recently, she served in an advisory capacity to the District where she worked to analyze data and create large-scale strategy across each of the 6 Adult Education departments throughout the city. In both roles, she was responsible for operations, strategic planning, and grants management that impacted Adult Education and workforce programs.

A native of Chicago, Melissa brings passion and a wealth of experience across public, private, and governmental agencies dedicated to youth + adult development, workforce, K-12, and higher education.

Commitment to Service

Melissa is an active member of her Harvard Alumni chapters in Chicago. She is the Chapter Lead for the Harvard Latino Alumni Alliance (HLAA) in Chicago and also serves as an Alumni Ambassador for the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Melissa also works to provide mentorship and support to first-generation students at Harvard College through the Harvard First Generation Alumni group. In addition, Melissa is an enthusiastic supporter of Junior Achievement and enjoys volunteering with them.

Education 

Melissa received her BA in English Professional Writing from Mount Mary College. She continued her studies at Harvard University where she was a Courtney Sale Ross Fellow and received her EdM in Arts in Education. Following her studies on the East Coast, Melissa headed west to pursue her MA/PhD in Chicana/o Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara as a Regents Special Fellow. She received her MA in Chicana/o Studies and completed her doctoral coursework before returning home to Chicago. Melissa also completed the Latino Non-Profit Leadership Program, with a focus on non-profit management, at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Senior Director of Development and Communications

Paula King

Paula KingA native of Ecuador, Paula King began her tenure at Erie Neighborhood House in 2012 as development manager where she was responsible for overseeing the grant portfolio, communications, and special events for Erie Elementary Charter School. In 2014 she assumed the role of associate director of development. Paula is responsible for overseeing the institutional fundraising program at Erie House, including devising funding strategies, managing, and expanding relationships with foundation, corporate and congregational donors. She became the director of development in 2016, having served as interim senior director of development for a period of 5 months. Paula was named senior director of development and communications in 2017.

Prior to joining Erie Neighborhood House, Paula worked at Casa Central as Development Associate for three years, where she was responsible for grant writing and management of diverse private and public funding sources. Additionally, she participated in the agency’s Performance Quality Improvement system as a Co-Chair of the Program Review subcommittee to provide recommendations to improve quality of agency programming and service delivery processes.

Commitment to Service

Paula is passionate about social justice and sustainable development in Latin America. She serves as a board member for Sustainable Sharing with Guatemala, a grassroots nonprofit that works on sharing best practices to build working models of sustainability, and optimizing resources in the United States to support effective Guatemalan organizations. She is also an active volunteer with the Chicago English Bulldog Rescue and The Good Food Project.

Education

Paula holds a Master of Arts in Nonprofit Administration and a Bachelor of Arts in Global Studies, both from North Park University. She also received graduate certificates in Conflict Management and Leadership. Paula is a member of Delta Mu Delta International Honor Society in Business.

Senior Director of Finance

Leslie Okamura

Leslie Okamura joined the Erie Neighborhood House team as Director of Finance in January 2013 and was promoted to the role of Senior Director of Finance in April 2018. Prior to working at Erie House, Leslie worked at Casa Central Social Services, where she began her career in nonprofit accounting and managed the daily accounting functions for over 5 years. Her previous experience in corporate finance working at American Book Display has helped the agencies she has served to maximize the benefit from donations and grants received.

Commitment to Service

Leslie is the volunteer treasurer at her church, Bethany Baptist Church, and has held that position for many years. Leslie has a passion to serve children in Chicago, as she and her husband adopted children from Chicago.

Education

Leslie graduated with a degree in Accountancy from Northeastern Illinois University and is a Registered Certified Public Accountant in Illinois. 

Senior Director of Operations

Alvin Schexnider

Alvin SchexniderAlvin Schexnider joined Erie Neighborhood House as the Senior Director of Operations in May 2018. Before joining the Erie House team, he worked as Director of Operations at Greater Good Studio, a social innovation & design consulting firm that works with non-profits, foundations, government agencies, and social enterprises at the local, national, and international level. In that role, he was responsible for operations, finance, human resources, compliance & risk, process improvement, and project management.

Previous executive leadership roles include: Director of HR at Youth & Opportunity United, NFP - where he was a member of the Executive Team and was responsible for setting the HR strategy & operations for a staff of over 180 workers; and Director of Planning & Administration at Urban Ministries, Inc. / UMI - where he was a member of the Executive Team and was responsible for internal company communications, project management, HR, and office administration. He began his career as a Global Management Associate at Abbott Labs, holding roles in both Chicago and Shanghai, China.

Commitment to Service

Outside of work, Alvin is a National Board Director at Creative Reaction Lab and a member of the Chicago Chapter of the Service Design Network—both organizations advance the use of design to resolve societal challenges. Alvin was previously Board Co-Chair of Chicago Freedom School and a National Advisor for the Social Enterprise Alliance. He also was a 2016 Fellow in the IMPACT Leadership Program, jointly run by the Chicago Urban League and the University of Chicago-Booth School of Business.

Education

Alvin completed a bachelor’s in political science from Morehouse College, a master’s in management & organization from the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management, and a post-graduate certificate in international studies from Cornell University. He also studied for a year at the London School of Economics via the Luard Scholarship.

Leadership Team

Director of Community Resources and Education

Cristina De La Rosa

Cristina De La RosaCristina De La Rosa assumed the role of the Director of Community Resources and Education (formerly Adult Programs) at Erie House in summer 2015. Cristina is responsible for overseeing the daily management, implementation, and evaluation of direct service programs for children, families, and adults which currently includes English as a Second Language (ESL), helping individuals to learn English and improve their existing skills in classroom setting; Community Literacy, empowering adults though peer-based literacy and tutoring; Proyecto Cuídate, promoting healthy, united families through support, education, and restorative justice; Little Village READS, children's literacy initiative aimed at improving first through third grade students' reading skills; and Buen HOGAR - providing Chicago residents with supportive services and access to affordable housing.

Prior to joining Erie House, Cristina worked with the Chicago Federation of Labor-Workers Assistance Committee for seven years focusing on workforce development as a Program Coordinator and case manager. There she helped laid-off workers find new employment through job readiness training and managed a summer youth work program with Chicago Public Schools and community-based organizations. After much thought and consideration, Cristina decided to take her career in a different direction toward the housing policy field and joined Erie House as an Outreach Coordinator in late November 2011 for Buen HOGAR.

As an Outreach Coordinator, she worked directly with the Chicago Housing Authority to affirmatively market and promote their programs and services in Chicago’s Latinx communities. Cristina was also able to build partnerships with local housing service providers and advocates to ensure equitable access to housing services. After almost 4 years with Erie’s housing program that provides education and supportive services to empower the Latinx community she became the Site and Assistant Director of Erie House’s Little Village site.

She was recently asked to co-chair Latino Policy Forum’s Housing Acuredo that focuses on building the policy making and advocacy capacity of Latinx organizations and leaders. Cristina is also on the Editorial Board of the Little Village Community Portal that is an online platform for residents that inspires community storytelling and resource sharing that affirms the lived experiences and aspirations of Little Village community members.

Education

Cristina attended DePaul University where she received her bachelor’s degree in Liberal Arts and Science with a major in Public Policy and then continued her education at the University of Illinois at Chicago in the Urban Planning and Policy Master’s program.

 

Director of Child Care

Louis Falk

Louis FalkLouis began his tenure at Erie Neighborhood House in 1984 as a lead teacher in one of two Early Childhood Education classrooms. Since then he has had many roles at Erie Neighborhood House leading to his current role as Director of Child Care. During this time he has seen the program grow from two classrooms and ten-person staff to twelve classrooms and a fifty-five-person staff. Louis is a dedicated advocate for promoting excellence in Early Childhood Education with optimal learning and development for children and their families. Louis has always been a strong supporter of the idea that the relationship between parents, staff and children is the key to the successful experience offered at Erie. The other important key is making the program fit the needs of the families that walk through Erie’s doors.

Commitment to Service

Louis has also been recognized by National Louis University with the Next Generation of Chicago Leaders Award for his role as a Early Childhood Education administrator in the city of Chicago.

Education

Louis holds a Master’s of Arts in Administration and Supervision from Roosevelt University and graduate certificate in Executive Education Leadership from Loyola University Chicago School of Business Administration. Louis received his Bachelors of Arts degree in Early Childhood Education from Roosevelt University.

Director of Expanded Learning Programs for Children and Youth

Joshua Fulcher

Joshua joined Erie House in August 2007 as the Education Programs Coordinator and has also served as Assistant Director of Youth Options Unlimited (YOU). His previous experience as an educator has been essential in his ability to strengthen the academic component of the YOU programs and fully develop the Monday night mentoring program (TEAM SS).

Commitment to Service

Not only is Joshua actively involved in the Illinois Student Assistance Coalition, a network that connects both resources and colleagues in order to support schools, CBOs and – ultimately – students. He is also a member the following:

  • SHPE Chicago
  • A.C.E. Advocates (Chicago Region)

Joshua has been recognized as Supervisor of the Year by the Chicago School of Professional Psychology and is often asked to speak on his tutoring technique: Model-Coach-Fade; How to Teach Anything.

Education

Joshua graduated from the University of Notre Dame with a major in psychology and earned his Master of Education while teaching in Montgomery, AL through the University of Notre Dame’s Alliance for Catholic Education program. 

Director of Facilities

Paul Kasper

Paul Kasper has worked in the non-profit sector for over 30 years.

His past duties have included being a manager of Workforce Development for economically disadvantaged adults at Association House of Chicago, a prominent social service agency in Chicago. He went on to become the Office Manager at Illinois Action For Children, an advocacy group for abused and neglected children in the Juvenile Court system, where he was responsible for bookkeeping, human resources and payroll.

Paul joined Erie's staff in September 2001 as the Executive Assistant to the Executive Director. In 2005, Paul became the Director of Operations, where he is responsible for planning, organizing, directing and controlling the activities of facilities, management and engineering, strategic planning and energy management for all Erie sites throughout the city of Chicago.

Director of Workforce Development

Judy Lai

Judy LaiJudy joined Erie Neighborhood House as the Director of Workforce Development in spring of 2016. Her role at Erie House involves daily management of the Pathways to Success adult education and work readiness bridge programs, building partnerships with potential employers, community organizations and funders as well as providing leadership to the workforce team. 

Prior to joining Erie House, Judy worked at the Chicago Federation of Labor Workers Assistance Committee, a WIOA and city-funded agency, for 10 years, initially as Program Coordinator prior to being promoted to Program Manager. Judy’s previous experience includes oversight of the Dislocated Worker Program, Vocational Rehabilitation Impact Center Cook County Boot Camp program, healthcare bridge program, transitional jobs and a customized training program between Veterans, City Colleges and People’s Gas. Judy is fully dedicated to the workforce field and her longevity at her previous employer speaks volumes about her passion, interest and success in transitioning adult learners into gaining the essential soft and hard skills needed to return to the workforce at a livable wage.

Commitment to Service

Coming from a first-generation immigrant family, Judy was the first in her immediate family to obtain an undergraduate degree and the first of her entire family to obtain a graduate degree. Judy’s never ending desire is to bring the knowledge she gained back to her community and towards refugee rights. Judy is a member, advocate and active donor to the following organizations:

  • International Refugee Committee
  • Refugee One
  • Causegear
  • World Vision
  • UNICEF
  • Hong Kong Club

Education

Judy holds a Master of Science in Public Service and a Master of Arts in Political Science, both from DePaul University.

Director of Citizenship and Immigration Services

Jane Lombardi

Jane LombardiJane Lombardi began her tenure at Erie Neighborhood House in March 2014 as the Citizenship and Immigration Program Coordinator where she was responsible for overseeing the New Americans Initiative providing free naturalization workshops in the Chicagoland area. Jane became accredited by the Department of Justice in December 2014, allowing her to represent clients in immigration applications before US Citizenship and Immigration Services. In May 2016, she assumed the role of Director of Citizenship and Immigration Services. Jane is responsible for overseeing the daily management of Erie House’s immigration legal services and citizenship classes, including on-going program evaluation, budget oversight, and leadership to the Citizenship and Immigration team. Prior to joining Erie House, Jane was an AmeriCorps VISTA at Illinois Legal Aid Online for two separate years serving as the LiveHelp Program Coordinator and Translation Coordinator. 

Commitment to Service

Jane is dedicated to a life of service empowering the low-income, immigrant community. In 2012 she was awarded a Fulbright scholarship to teach English at the Universidad de Guadalajara in Guadalajara, Mexico. She is also a member of Illinois Legal Aid Online’s Young Professionals Board and in June 2018 was elected to the Board’s Executive Committee to serve as Communications Officer.

Education

Jane holds a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish and Latin American and Caribbean Studies from Rollins College and a Master of Science in Public Service Management from DePaul University.

 

Director of Human Resources

Maria Perez

Maria Perez has been part of  the Erie family since 1987. Starting as a Financial Administrator, Maria also served as a Payroll Administrator before taking on her current role, 13 years ago, as Director of Human Resources. When Maria began at Erie House there were approximately 60 employees and she has seen the agency grow to the now over 150 employees, hence, the reason the HR department was implemented in 1999.   In addition, she has overseen the HR functions of the Erie Elementary Charter School since its inception in 2005 when it began with 2 employees and now has grown to approximately 50 employees. Prior to Erie House, Maria spent 10 years as a bookkeeper at Youth Guidance, a non-profit social service organization.

Commitment to Service

Maria is an active member of SHRM (Society for Human Resources Management) and the Greater Chicagoland Not-for-Profit Human Resources Forum.  

Education

Maria holds a Bachelor of Arts in Integrative Studies from Northeastern Illinois University.

Director of Health and Leadership

Micaella Verro

Micaella VerroMicaella assumed the role of Director of Health and Leadership Programs in January 2016 and is responsible for the implementation of health education initiatives for Erie House’s families. These initiatives include programming for early childhood, youth, and parents. Micaella is also responsible for developing new programs, creating evaluation methods, and maintaining community partnerships.

Micaella first joined Erie House in 2009 as an AmeriCorps volunteer through the Mennonite Voluntary Service program. She worked as the Reading Specialist in the after-school program, and then helped develop the Health Programs department and served as the Coordinator until 2014. After receiving her graduate degree in public health, Micaella returned to Erie as the Assistant Director of Health Programs.

Prior to becoming the Director of Health and Leadership Programs, Micaella worked with a research team in Mexico that provided aid to Central American migrants in transit, and also worked as a research and teaching assistant in Chicago. She has long been involved in immigrant rights, which originally drew her to serve at Erie House.

Commitment to Service

Micaella has volunteered with various community organizations in Seattle, Chicago, and abroad, primarily focusing on immigrant rights, women’s health access, and homeless services. She is currently a regular volunteer at Resurrection Covenant Church’s warming center and an active member of the American Public Health Association.

Education

Micaella holds a Master of Public Health from the University of Illinois at Chicago and a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from Seattle Pacific University. She also received her Certified Health Education Specialist professional designation.

 

Meet the Leadership

Our senior leadership's passion, talent, and commitment is not only reflective of the entire Erie House community, but also at the core of our excellence.


Senior Leadership

Kirstin Chernawsky

Executive Director

Melissa Flores

Senior Director of Programs & Quality Assurance

Paula King

Senior Director of Development and Communications

Leslie Okamura

Senior Director of Finance

Alvin Schexnider

Senior Director of Operations


Leadership Team

Cristina De La Rosa

Director of Community Resources and Education

Louis Falk

Director of Child Care

Joshua Fulcher

Director of Expanded Learning Programs for Children and Youth 

Paul Kasper

Director of Facilities

Judy Lai

Director of Workforce Development

Jane Lombardi

Director of Citizenship and
Immigration Services

Maria Perez

Director of Human Resources

Micaella Verro

Director of Health and Leadership

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